Interview: Buell Motorcycles’ CEO, Bill Melvin

Buell Motorcycles CEO, Bill Melvin
Buell Motorcycles made a splash over the weekend with the launch of the new Super Cruiser. Based on the company’s 1190 platform, the new bike is Roland Sands’ take on a Buell cruiser. It’s part of a product offensive from Buell that includes the 1190 SX and Hammerhead sportbikes, as well as the upcoming Baja dirt bike and a new sport touring model.

Buell CEO Bill Melvin and an investment group purchased the company out of bankruptcy and he’s now looking forward to steady product growth. The history of Buell is certainly fascinating, but Melvin and his investment group have high hopes that they can resurrect Buell and build a successful all-American motorcycle company. So what does Melvin say about the future of Buell?

Buell Super Cruiser designed by Roland Sands
Why Roland Sands? I met Roland in 2004 at the V-Twin show (V-Twin Expo) and we’ve been involved in the industry. I saw Roland again at the re-launch of Buell. I reached out to him and said, ‘Hey, what do you think about making a kick-ass cruiser, something hot.’ It took about a year and a half.

What was Roland’s design brief? I said, ‘Keep the performance of the engine and the rear swingarm.’ That’s key to why it handles so well. We made the decision to keep the front-end race suspension and perimeter brakes and sportbike wheels. We kept that whole package.

Buell Super Cruiser designed by Roland Sands
Did you turn Roland loose, or did Buell work closely with him? It was collaborative. They had two ideas. They came back with ideas, and they both were similar. We wanted to use the performance components. What handles better than that set up? That’s what we did. We’re going to keep having immaculate conceptions. This was a collaborative effort. They were unbelievable.

Will Roland do Buell’s next bike, too? Right now we’re riding this wave. It’s all hands on deck getting this ready for the crowd. We’re going to Daytona. But, we have more, a sport bike, a naked, the Baja. The next one to come off the production line is going to be the SuperTouring [below]; Q3 is what we’re aiming for.

Buell SuperTouring 1190 tourer
You’ve set up an interesting business model with a a lot of small volume bikes instead of one flagship. We want diversification of the product lineup. American performance motorcycles, that is what Buell is, and what does that look like? Baja, the SuperTouring, the 1190. The volumes will go up. Our leadership teams were built to build our company with talented leaders and team in the factory.

You didn’t face any supply chain issues? Not much. We’re working through it well. But we are also going slow. As that continues to grow, we are set up to do volume. We have had a ton of support from the (Michigan) business community. They all want to help and give us ideas and make connections.

Buell Hammerhead 1190
Where do you want Buell to be by the end of 2023?
Let’s go with 2025. By the end of 2023, the supply chain should be moving really smooth. We want many service centers and premium service centers for people to touch and see the current Buells.

Behind the scenes, we’re kicking butt on getting the Super Cruiser out and getting it done. We are not going to rush that bike. We can’t rush it. It is kick ass and needs to come out kick ass out of the factory, and when that is coming out hot and dialed in, we’ll start more.

So, 2025? There’s that bike, and there’s other bikes as well. That’s all I can say. We will have a lot of exciting new things.

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Buell Baja 1190 off-road racing motorcycle